USA Track & Field and its Athletes Advisory Committee have agreed in principle on a USATF Revenue Distribution Plan that will deliver an additional $9 million in cash to athletes over the next five years, it was announced on Monday.
AAC officers and event leaders, USATF staff and High Performance Division officers met in Indianapolis over the weekend to develop details of the plan, which was unanimously approved by the 19 athlete and High Performance attendees, including AAC Chair Dwight Phillips, High Performance Division Chair Michael Conley, athlete board members Curt Clausen and Darvis Patton, past AAC President Sandra Farmer-Patrick, and elected athlete leaders from all event groups.
“Our meetings in Indianapolis were groundbreaking,” said Phillips, a four-time world champion and Olympic gold medalist. “For USATF to work with us on how to earmark $9 million in cash to athletes is historic, but we were just as excited by the unprecedented collaboration between athletes, the staff, and our High Performance Division. We left Indianapolis really excited about the future.”
“Everyone came to the table recognizing the issues at hand and extremely open-minded about finding solutions,” said USATF CEO Max Siegel. “We have been working with athletes for more than two years to try to come up with a funding model, and Dwight, his leadership team and our staff have worked especially closely in recent weeks. To be able to finalize the basic structure in a unanimous fashion speaks to the shared commitment of everyone involved.”
Beginning in 2016, roughly $1.8 million per year in additional, cash funds will be distributed to athletes in addition to current USATF Tier funding, development funding and other programs. Roughly 75 percent of the funds will be evenly distributed among athletes who qualify for the world outdoor championships or Olympic Games, providing roughly $10,000 annually for each athlete who makes the world championships or Olympic teams.
The remaining 25 percent will be distributed as medal bonus money for individuals medaling at world outdoor championships or Olympic Games, with $25,000 for gold, $15,000 for silver and $10,000 for bronze. In the relays, the number of athletes who run at least one round of that medal-winning team will share equally in the amount of the bonus.
Under the expanded funding model, a Tier 1 athlete who wins a national title and makes a national team without medaling will enjoy a base of roughly $35,000. A Tier 1 athlete who wins a national title and one gold medal at a world championship or the Olympic Games will see their support from USATF increase from roughly $25,000 per year to $60,000. Including world championships prize money, athlete income rises to potentially well over $100,000—not including prize money at other meets and personal sponsorship contracts.
“One of the biggest issues athletes debated for years is how to define ‘professional athlete,’ which in our sport is extremely subjective,” Phillips said. “Probably the biggest moment of realization for us was that the role of a national governing body is to field the national team and support the sport, not to define ‘professional athlete’ or operate a professional league. We know that our athletes are extremely diverse in their concerns, and there is no single model that will please everyone. But by concentrating on the core responsibilities of the governing body and its relationship with athletes, we were able to achieve a breakthrough.”
Later this week, Phillips and Siegel will sign a memorandum of agreement on the plan, with additional details to be finalized in the next 30 days. The program will be reviewed in the weeks preceding this year’s USATF Annual Meeting in Houston and will be finalized there.
“The new model keeps all our current development programs in place while rewarding athletes for national team performances,” Siegel said. “To give an equal stipend to everyone on the team provides the opportunity for a No. 50 world-ranked athlete to receive the same baseline revenue as a No. 1 world-ranked athlete, regardless of event group. The medal-bonus structure provides the additional, upside incentive and reward.”